DONALD TRUMP has drawn a line in the sand.
He has made clear — via the missile strike he ordered — that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, it will face consequences.
Trump’s action highlights how hopeless Barack Obama was on foreign policy.
His administration said chemical weapon use was a red line, then did nothing when Assad crossed that line.
“Where did that get us?” asks one senior UK Government figure, pointedly.
I understand that Trump was swayed by the argument that there had to be consequences for Assad using chemical weapons.
The Government is — in the words of one senior Cabinet minister — “reassured” by how Trump has handled this situation.
He has done what he has said he would do, listen to his generals.
His national security adviser, HR McMaster, and his defence secretary, Jim Mattis, are two of the finest military leaders the US has produced since World War Two.
Tellingly, the US strikes were conducted not to hit Russian forces in the region or chemical weapon stockpiles.
The US also consulted with Britain.
There were two detailed conversations between Mattis and the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon before the strikes.
So what happens now in Syria?
Well, that all depends on how Assad and his Russian sponsors react.
If Assad stops using chemical weapons, don’t expect Trump to push the US further into this conflict.
But if Assad doesn’t stop, the US will respond with ever greater force.
One person who should pay particular attention to Trump’s actions is the man who has just been to visit him at his Florida retreat, President Xi of China.
The speed with which Trump decided to strike, and his willingness to do so unilaterally, should remind the Chinese leader that when the US President says, “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will”, he means it.
The Chinese supply 90 per cent of North Korea’s food and energy.
They could easily force Kim Jong-un to the table to discuss getting rid of his nukes by cutting off these supplies.
They haven’t done so though.
Why? Because they don’t want the North Korean regime to fall.
They fear the refugee crisis that would follow.
But no US president can accept a rogue state having the ability to hit US cities with nuclear missiles.
Any president who did would be opening up the country to nuclear blackmail: send us billions of dollars or Los Angeles gets it.
If no action is taken, North Korea may be able to threaten this in as little as four years.
A US strike on North Korea would do far more than just mess up Kim Jong-un’s hairstyle though.
As Boris Johnson has warned privately, if you try to take out their nukes, Pyongyang will respond by trying to take out the South Korean capital — which is only 35 miles from the border.
With Trump’s National Security Council already trying to work out how to deal with North Korea militarily, the Chinese need to act if they want to avoid a war in Asia during Trump’s presidency.
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EUROSCEPTICS SMOOTH WAY FOR MAY
DURING his European renegotiation, David Cameron constantly had to deal with noises off from Eurosceptic Tories.
They were more than happy to make clear what compromises they would, or would not, accept.
But Theresa May is being allowed to negotiate without any of these constraints.
Eurosceptic Tories are clear that they don’t want to bind her hands.
“They are now totally bought in,” I’m told.
How has Mrs May done this?
Well, she started off by securing her base.
She committed herself to Britain leaving the single market – and with that ending unlimited EU immigration – and taking back control of trade policy.
Now that Outers know they are going to get these things, they are prepared to cut her some slack as to how she gets there.
“A flash of sudden maturity in the Tory party,” is how one minister describes it.
There is even some willingness to compromise on when the UK takes back control.
There is understandable hostility to any open-ended transition agreement – there is nothing as permanent as a temporary government programme – but there is a readiness to consider what Mrs May calls an implementation period.
According to her allies, the PM is acutely aware that the key to maintaining this harmony is, “no watering down of control at the end of the deal”.
Cameron in Nato bid?
BOTH Boris Johnson and Michael Fallon want David Cameron to throw his hat into the ring to be the next Nato Secretary-General.
They are keen on a British candidate and think he would be a strong one. But Downing Street is not so taken with this idea.
“He’s not No10’s candidate,” one senior Government figure tells me. With Cameron unenthusiastic about the job, if there is to be a British contender it will have to be someone else.
IT LOOKS PAUL OVER FOR UKIP
“HE’S leader in name only.”
The verdict of one senior Ukip figure on Paul Nuttall this week.
The party’s new leader continues to be overshadowed by his predecessor.
In the European Parliament this week, Nuttall, sat mute behind Nigel Farage as the ex-Ukip leader stole the headlines by accusing MEPs of behaving like the mafia.
Now, this isn’t all Nuttall’s fault.
Farage’s refusal to give up the leadership of the group that Ukip sits in at the European Parliament, means that he – not Nuttall – gets the prestige speaking slot.
This matters because, with no MPs, the European Parliament is Ukip’s best chance of making news.
But after his failure in the Stoke by- election and the defection of both Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, it feels like Nuttall’s leadership is holed below the water line.
But Ukip might be too: has it been finished off by victory in the EU referendum?
After all, what’s the point of it now?
KATIE VICTORY WOULD BE A GRAND S-TORY
THE Grand National and Tory leadership contests have a lot in common.
They attract a crowded field, including a fair few no-hopers, and are rarely won by the pre-race favourites – as George Osborne and Boris Johnson will tell you.
Theresa May’s success in getting over the finishing line suggests that you should look for an experienced horse that is a reliable jumper and won’t be fazed by the occasion.
But then again, maybe the lesson of Mrs May’s victory is that women keep their head’s while men lose theirs.
In which case, put a tenner on Katie Walsh with 2016 winner Rule The World.
Katie is 40-1 to become the first female jockey to win the National on board Wonderful Charm.
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